A rookie firefighter’s first big test:

While awaiting a fire, Jordan Sullivan had not been idle for 96 days. He had easily done a couple of hundred runs, almost always in the junior position on the truck, the one called the “can man,” who lugged a fire extinguisher. Ladder companies like his tackled the entry work and the search for survivors. Engine companies had the hoses that put out fires.

The vast majority of what a New York firefighter does, though, has nothing to do with fire. Last spring, firefighters in Queens had to retrieve a police officer who got stuck in a tree trying to save a cat. Firefighter Sullivan had not had tree calls, but his tours were a litany of balky elevators, car accidents, chirping carbon monoxide detectors, frozen pipes, blown sprinkler heads, gas leaks, smoking manholes, scaffolding emergencies, the cascade of false alarms that fate tossed his way.